Developing a strong and consistent brand can often be the competitive advantage that sets you apart by allowing you to better understand and connect with your clients. Too often today brand development is dismissed as a logo and color scheme while it is much more than that. Dirk Van Slyke, Co-Founder of local marketing consulting practice (and one of our original members) Statistical Vision has over 25 years of brand management experience. He thinks of a brand as “a relationship with your constituencies that is either strengthened or weakened with every point of contact.” This definition illustrates the wide range of times your brand may be evaluated either directly or indirectly. In other words, your brand is the way your customer perceives your company, product, or service.
Defining Your Customer
Moreover, your brand is not who you say you are but rather who your customers say you are. Your customers are the most important factor to consider when beginning to develop a brand so it is important that you understand who you are selling to. Do market research and build out a buyer persona. Once you have understood the kind of person you want to interact with, you need to understand what their expectations for working with you may be. Van Slyke elaborates on this idea:
“A good company meets expectations. A great company understands and exceeds those same expectations.”
Some of the strongest brands today have taken the time to understand the expectations of their customers and are coming up with ways to beat those expectations.
Chick Fil-A – The Customer First Example
Chick-Fil-A, one of the most recognizable brands today, has done an exceptional job defining their brand as customer first. If you order a chicken sandwich and ask for no pickles, they will actually take $.15 off of your bill. Given the manpower needed to input this function into their system and modify their revenue projections to account for the money left on the table, there’s no question Chick Fil-A places the customer experience at the top of their brand vision.
Critique the Competition
Like any other aspect of your business, you should always know what your competition is doing when it comes to their brand messaging.
What has worked or not worked for them? How do they interact with their customers? What advantage do we have over the competition? Combining market research of your buyer persona with the brand engagement of your competition will give you a gameplan to effectively and uniquely reach your customers.
Consistency is Key
In order to develop a truly effective brand, consistency is among the most important things to consider. To keep a level of consistency to your brand as your company scales, it is important to design infrastructure to maintain your message. If your brand is associated with positive customer service and quick call times, you’ll need to plan enough hires to take on the additional calls to handle your company’s growth. If you don’t, scaling will actually set you back even further as you lose some of your client base who feel they can’t believe in your brand anymore.
Potentially the most important trait – Authenticity. Nothing will drive away a potential customer more than them feeling you are being less than transparent with them. Be the great brand you want to be, strive to reach the goals that you set for yourself and your customers will feed off of that passion and authenticity.